3D Printed Circuit Boards:

The 6 Top Benefits You Need to Know

BotFactory Inc., Carlos Ospina

3D printed circuit boards are the future of electronics. Traditional PCBs are manufactured by etching copper traces onto a substrate, but 3D printed PCBs are created by depositing inkjet-printed conductive materials onto a substrate (called an “additive” process).

This approach offers several advantages over traditional methods. Here are a few benefits you can expect when switching from conventional printing techniques to 3D desktop printing.

Conductive and insulating inks being printed onto a substrate to create a multi-layered circuit
  • Faster Prototyping: 3D printing makes it so that complex, multilayer boards can be produced in 2-4 hours. 3D PCBs are created by depositing conductive layers of material on top of insulating layers to create circuit boards. When it comes to low-volume manufacturing, this process is much faster than traditional PCB fabrication methods and opens up new possibilities for designing and testing complex electronics. 3D printed circuit boards also offer greater design flexibility,  This allows for a quick turn in prototypes of new designs and the ability to iterate your designs, increasing your development speeds rapidly. Compared to an average of 8 days of lead time on typical PCB orders, this is a huge gain!

North Carolina State University Fiber and Polymer Science Program using our Squink PCB Printers created high quality traces using reactive, particle-free inks on woven fabrics.
  • Improved Design Flexibility: 3D printing allows for greater design flexibility as they can be created with multiple layers and features that would be difficult or impossible to produce using traditional methods. This will enable you to create complex shapes that wouldn't be possible with traditional manufacturing methods. It also enables features reserved for high-end manufacturing processes, including buried vias and blind vias, as well as high density interconnects (HDIs), without breaking the bank. 
  • Keep your IP Safe: 3D printing your circuit boards is a great way to protect your intellectual property. With 3D printed circuit boards, you can control the entire manufacturing process, from design to production. With no need to send your design files to the Contract Manufacturer (CM), your IP is kept safe. This means that you can keep your designs secret and safe from competitors. 3D printed circuit boards also allow you to make changes and modifications to your designs without going through the entire manufacturing process again. This is a huge advantage for engineers constantly iterating on their designs. 3D printed circuit boards are also more affordable than traditional fabrication facilities, making them an excellent option for startups and small businesses.
  • The green approach: The traditional process for creating PCBs uses and pollutes tons of clean water. Once a conventional PCBs has completed its useful life, the PCB becomes e-waste, and it is hard to recycle or clean. 3D printed circuit boards (PCBs) are a more environmentally friendly option for electronics engineers than traditional methods of PCB manufacturing. 3D printed circuit boards are made by layering conductive and insulating materials to create complex circuitry. This process uses less energy and fewer harmful chemicals than other methods of PCB production. 3D printed circuit boards are also recyclable, making them more sustainable for electronics engineering. As a result, 3D printed circuit boards are a more environmentally friendly, efficient, and effective option for electronics engineers.
The safe, self-contained BotFactory SV2 all-in-one desktop PCB printer and pick-and-place machine
  • Safer manufacturing:  Other manufacturing methods require dealing with heavy pollutant substances and highly controlled processes to avoid fires, explosions, and other dangerous situations due to the delicate materials used. Even small milling machines create tiny glass particles while operating, particles that are harmful to the respiratory system of humans and animals. 3D printed circuit boards don't require the use of hazardous chemicals in their production, and there's no need for lengthy exposure to UV light, which can damage the eyes.  In addition, 3D printed circuit boards are less likely to cause electrical shocks, as they don't require the use of high voltage power sources. 3D printed circuit boards can also be produced much more quickly than traditional PCBs, meaning that workers don't have to spend as much time in the production process.
  • Better Budget Management: Depending on your organization, 3D printing circuit boards cut on the red tape required to order PCBs while remaining regulation compliant. It also allows your team to work under a controlled budget that encourages faster development without ballooning your budget with “quick turnaround” orders. 3D printing technology is more readily available and less expensive than the equipment required for traditional PCB manufacturing. In addition, they can be made with a broader range of materials, including rigid and flexible substrates at the same cost. Finally, 3D printed circuit boards can be made in smaller quantities, which makes them more affordable for prototype development and small-scale production. In sum, 3D printing technology offers several advantages over traditional PCB manufacturing, making it a cheaper option for many applications.

3D printed circuit boards offer several advantages over traditional PCBs, including rapid prototyping, environmental friendliness, affordability, safety, and budget management. With the right 3D printer and materials, you can create high-quality PCBs in your home or office. So why not give 3D printing a try?